Dance

FirstWorks Debuts Two New Productions at the Vets in February

Two of the biggest choreographers in contemporary dance are heading to Providence

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This month, dance takes center stage at The Vets with concerts from two of today’s most revered choreographers, Paul Taylor and Rennie Harris. The two performances are brought to the city by FirstWorks in partnership with two of Brown University's dance programs: The American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI) and the Rhythm of Change Festival.

Kathleen Pletcher, the executive artistic director of FirstWorks, says that the events are a part of their Artistic Icons Series and represent a culmination of their goal to connect art and audiences. The performances are also the fruit of collaborations with ADLI. “Partnership is something that’s really true to what we do,” Kathleen explains. “We work with local artists as well as world class artists.”

Julie Strandberg, the co-founder of ADLI and founding director of Dance at Brown University, also emphasizes the importance of collaboration and community. Through partnering with FirstWorks, ADLI provides master classes that are open to the public and help audiences understand dance from the inside. “We want to make dance accessible to everyone,” says Julie. “We’re also trying to develop an ongoing partnership where the community is as welcome on Brown’s campus as we are to go out and do things.”

These partnerships will peak on February 3 with the world premiere of the Paul Taylor Dance Company’s new piece, The Open Door. According to Julie, Paul Taylor is considered one of the greatest choreographers of modern dance, and both women are excited to bring this performance to Providence before its New York debut. “It’s really quite a coup to be getting the premiere,” Julie says. The concert will also include performances of classic pieces like Esplanade, which will be played live by the Brown University Orchestra.

On February 24, the Rhythm of Change Festival and FirstWorks will collaborate again when they bring Rennie Harris’ Puremovement to The Vets. “He’s known for taking dance from the streets onto the concert stage, but also has a deep commitment to educational programs,” says Kathleen. The performance, titled Nuttin’ But A Word, will include both classic and contemporary tracks and dynamic hip-hop choreography. In keeping with FirstWorks and Rhythm of Change's goals of forging connections and building an inclusive audience, Rennie will conduct workshops for students across Rhode Island. There will also be a matinee performance for students to experience his work firsthand.

While these performances are exciting in themselves, Julie and Kathleen are also committed to providing a backstage experience for audiences. “They’re never just observers,” Julie emphasizes. Through offering lectures, classes, workshops and film screenings before the concerts, Julie and Kathleen offer an avenue for engagement as well as education, to amplify the audience’s understanding of dance. “There’s a sense that the performance is like energy; it’s not a transaction, it’s not a passive experience and it can be very interactive,” says Kathleen. “The performance is important but the pathways to the work and people seeing and thinking about the work is something that continues.”

The Vets
February 3 – Paul Taylor Dance Company
February 24 – Rennie Harris Puremovements
One Avenue of the Arts
421-2787